While it is not perfect, and possibly rushed, the Anti-infiltration Act (反滲透法), which passed after its third reading in the legislature on Tuesday, is necessary.
In the deeply partisan world of Taiwanese politics, it is unlikely that the governing and main opposition parties would have formulated a more robust piece of legislation if given more time.
The bill would still be languishing in the Legislative Yuan for years to come had it not been passed on the final day of the last legislative session before the presidential and legislative elections on Saturday next week.
Predictably, the voting was strictly along party lines, with Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) lawmakers voting in favor of the bill, while Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and People First Party (PFP) lawmakers voted against.
Each side accused the other of playing politics with the passage of the bill.
Smaller parties, unconstrained by the usual obstructionist green-blue divide that has plagued the nation in the post-democratization period, offered more constructive comments.
Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je (柯文哲), chairman of the Taiwan People’s Party, said that the act is a good idea in principle and that the wording would not be problematic if it were possible to have a perfectly objective arbiter of whether a person or an action has transgressed the act and is therefore liable to prosecution.
The New Power Party (NPP) attempted to change the wording of the legislation, intending to beef up what it said was a necessary, yet “minimal” step to protect national security.
NPP Legislator Huang Kuo-chang (黃國昌) has strongly advocated barring individuals from taking control of Taiwanese media outlets and of exploiting this position to spread false information on Beijing’s behalf, and the NPP had wanted the legislation to include provisions to this end.
Although the DPP ultimately rejected those changes, the NPP was working to improve important legislation, rather than obstruct it for purely political reasons, as has become expected from the KMT.
KMT caucus whip William Tseng (曾銘宗) accused the DPP of “abusing its legislative majority to force through the bill.”
Tseng is clearly a poor student of democracy and the benefits a legislative majority accords a governing party. He is also being willfully forgetful about how his party behaved when it controlled the legislature for decades.
Beyond the simple political imperative of obstructionism for obstructionism’s sake, the KMT and PFP are concerned that key concepts in the legislation are too loosely defined, which could lead to innocent people being manipulated by agents of foreign — read China — powers and prosecuted under the act.
The DPP has rejected those criticisms.
The KMT and PFP have promised to seek a constitutional interpretation on the legality of the act. While it is unclear whether that would achieve the result they are looking for, it would at least signal their objection to the law in the buildup to the elections.
KMT Deputy Chairman Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌) yesterday said, while campaigning for the party’s candidate in Taipei’s eighth electoral district, Lai Shyh-bao (賴士葆), that the party would amend the act, or repeal it, if it secures a legislative majority in the elections, presumably through a perfectly reasonable use of a legislative majority.
A legislature with no one party holding the majority after the elections would, in theory at least, be desirable, but that would depend on lawmakers being capable of rational debate and working for the benefit of the nation over their party.
Hope springs eternal.
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